Renovation Season Number Three

The first two weeks of September graced us with beautiful summer weather. Hot days, cool nights, some rain, mostly sunshine. This post will describe Attila’s vacation. The next post will be about Terra and Lares and their big news.

Attila and I have been working on our little house in the city, as that is what Attila does on his annual vacation. We had the cell phone turned on and ready to respond to all those job offers that were coming my way as a result of my diligence in searching for employment. No calls. Big surprise. Not.

First, Attila finished painting the exterior of the house. A job very well done! He also replaced the ventilation screens to the attic, which had clogged with paint over the years.

Since it was purchased, the smell in the little house in the city has been decidedly unpleasant. It has been improving steadily over the last two years since we took possession of the house. It helped when we replaced the roof to keep the water from coming in from the sky. It helped when we gutted the basement, which was wet and all the building materials were saturated, growing mildew and mould. It helped when we had the concrete porch removed and waterproofed the basement, which in turn allowed us to replace the rotted sill plates, wall, insulation and siding. It helped when we caught the last chipmunk who had been living in the house the whole time since we bought it, and animals were no longer able to enter the house via the rotted areas of sill plate and wall behind the porch we removed. It helped that we ran the dehumidifier in the basement to dry it after all those years of water problems. All of this helped, a lot.

Still, when I sat at the kitchen table, a whiff of what I thought might be a mouse nest would greet me as I was eating my dinner.

So, we made the decision to gut the kitchen and see what was going on behind those walls. Quite a lot, as it turned out. But it wasn’t furry animals causing the odour issue. It was a combination of mildew and decomposing fir. The kitchen eating area had been panelled with Silvacore, very attractive fir panelling. But the mildew had taken its toll and the Silvacore panelling had a aquired an odour to make your eyes water. Attila removed all of the panelling and put it in the back yard. No good. When we walked out the back door the odour would make our eyes water, in the outdoors! So we removed all the nails, cut it into manageable pieces and bagged it, ready for a trip to the dump. Everything that had been touching that panelling was removed, bagged and prepared for the dump run.

Underneath the panelling was drywall, with a printed pattern on it. It would have been the original wall covering when the house was first built in the late 40’s, early 50’s. I liked the wallpaper, but it was badly damaged by mildew and the smell was still objectionable in the kitchen. So off it came, broken into small pieces and bagged for the dump run.

That left the bare studs and insulation. There were no traces of animals in residence, which was a big relief.

The insulation had acquired “the smell” from the fir panelling, so out it came, also bagged and ready for the dump run.

That left the bare sheathing and studs.

Still “the smell” persisted.

So off I went to the building supply store and purchased a gallon of BIN, which we used to paint the the interior of the studs and the wall sheathing. The next day “the smell” was gone.

After demolishing the walls of the kitchen, it was time to begin constructing the new interior walls. First new insulation, then vapour barrier. The original construction did not include vapour barrier, so this addition was quite welcome. Then the new drywall. Then the mudding and sanding. This is where it all came apart for me!

I had been without a functioning kitchen for many days, and now everything was covered with dust, everything! I was miserable. So I took myself off to the city to get my annual haircut and look for drapery material for the kitchen.

I found a perfectly coloured bedspread for curtain material at the used goods store, and also found some glass mugs, glass candy dishes and a plate and bowl that I could not resist. My total bill was under $10. I arrived back at the little house to find most of the misery was over, just the cleanup was waiting for me. And what a clean up that was! It took several days to conquer the dust.

Then the painting began. Primer and the paint we had chosen the week before. The colours are those we remember in our grandparents houses when we were wee. Comfort colours. Jadeite, in a darker shade for the cupboards, lighter for the trim, and a lemony white for the walls. The paint made such a difference! The sunny but darkish kitchen that we had has been transformed into a bright, light and larger looking space. We love it! There are still bits of jobs left to do and then we will turn our attention elsewhere.

The only major project remaining in the kitchen is to replace the kitchen floor; it currently boasts a badly damaged and aging vinyl floor. Below it are brittle tiles. We looked at flooring at the big box stores, ceramic, stone, hardwood and laminates. Nothing to my liking.

I want linoleum. The only place we found linoleum was at Home Depot, and it was in the commercial section, not in the flooring section. It is sold as tiles that are cemented to the floor. Not what I am looking for. I want floating linoleum floor. I know this product exists, and is even manufactured in Canada. But none of the big stores are selling it. So I’ll be researching sources to purchase what I want.

A linoleum floor will wear well, so much so that it will probably outlive me. When I was a kid my parents put linoleum in our farmhouse kitchen, and that floor received harsh treatment. A few years ago my mother decided to replace it, although it was still in good condition. I want linoleum.

The basement has dried significantly since we had the porch removed e drainage tile installed and waterproofing installed on the exterior. I spent a lot of time vacuuming the basement with a HEPA filter installed in the shop vac. I also sprayed aqueous oxygen on all surfaces that might have had mildew or mould. We ran the dehumidifier nightly for two weeks. The mustiness is gone, the smell of mildew and mould has disappeared entirely. I even dry scrubbed the mud that leaked onto the basement floor when Attila installed the sump pump last year (the water main in front of the house had burst and the soil was supersaturated).

We will be turning our attention to the next project: the bathroom. We will be keeping the metal tub, it is in very good condition. Although it will take some work to remove the rubbermaid stick ons which are partially missing and blackened from who knows what. We have our new, tiny bathroom vanity and sink, the fixture for the one holed sink and a new window that we bought at a bargain price last year. We will need a new toilet, new ceiling, new floor, new walls, so it will be quite a job.

When we bought the house Attila looked in the attic, but not with a flashlight. He thought that it might be insulated with vermiculite. So we were prepared to face a HUGE bill to have it safely removed. To our everlasting relief, we went up into the attic to investigate further; with a flashlight. The insulation is blown fiberglass with bits of roofing material peppering the surface from the roof replacement project. Fluffy fibreglass! NO VERMICULITE!!!!

The ceiling insulation is a renovation done relatively recently, so we needn’t turn our attention there anytime soon.

Our projects at the little house in th ecity are over for this year. We accomplished a lot and although I cannot say it was fun, I can say it was extremely gratifying.

Photo Gallery Kitchen Reno

1 kitchen before
#1 This is the kitchen as it was at the end of August 2012. The wall paneling is Silvacore, a fir product. The drapes were custom made in 1976 for windows in another house, but have worked nicely here as they are lined and provide excellent insulation. The cupboards are the original, with fir plywood doors, most likely the doors are part of the renovation that added the panelling and the vinyl floor. It was a dark room, despite the south facing, six foot wide window.
#2 This is the kitchen after we removed the Silvacore panelling. Underneath we found wallpapered drywall, covered with mildew. I liked the pattern on the wallpaper, but it had to go! The smell in the room was overwhelming and horrid when the Silvacore came down, nothing for it but to keep going and remove the existing drywall. Already the room looked brighter, even though it smelled a lot worse. At this point we still could not tell what was behind the drywall. Were there animals living there?
#3 This is a close up of the wallpaer we found underneath the Silvacore. I liked it a lot, but it was mildewed and the smell was horrid, so out it would have to come. Note the vinyl floor, which was installed over the original tile floor when the Silvacore panelling was installed. it will have to be replaced, another year. I am voting for a white floor, linoleum, floating.
#4 When we removed the drywall there were no animals! Big relief. There was also no vapour barrier and the existing insulation, although intact, smelled horrid. So out is came. The smell improved when the insulation was removed, but was not completely gone. So, off to the store for BIN (shellac) which we used to cover the interior sheathing and studs. The smell disappeared under the shellac fumes, and when they cleared there was no discernible odour in the room. Mission accomplished, the smell was gone! At this point Attila took the opportunity to a bit of rewiring, bringing it up to code.
#5 Next we insulated and installed vapour barrier. This should prevent future mildew issues from arising in this room.
#6 Next came the drywall. I had been doing rather well I thought, with the kitchen torn to pieces, the stove and fridge pulled out and barely functioning. It was the drywall that sent me over the edge! Dust, dust and more dust.
#7 After the drywall we moved on to painting, the primer and then the colours I had chosen. These are the colours I remember from early childhood (NOT the floor), as does Attila and we love them. Terra and Lares were not so keen on them, but they did concede that the room was brighter and looked much larger with these new colours. After it was all done and dusted, I decided to remove the plate rail from the back of the kitchen cupboards (the originals, love them) and found the original paint colour underneath – the same colour that we used! We are very happy with the results of this renovation, it solved the mildew problem and gave us a cozy bright kitchen that we find visually appealing and a pleasure to spend time in.

Worldly Distractions


Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 100.1 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 15.7°C
Dewpoint: 15.1°C
Humidity: 96 %
Wind: SSE 21 km/h


“There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.”

George Santayana
1863 – 1952

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Love the pics! Place looks good.


Congratulations and well done. What a great improvement.


Wow! You’ve done a lot of work. Sure looks good!